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Treasury thinks individual mandate will work

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The U.S. Treasury Department hasn’t bothered to analyze whether it has the legal authority to delay the individual mandate because there’s no reason to do so, according to Mark Iwry

Iwry, a health policy advisor at the department, talked about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “shared responsibility” requirements for individuals today at a PPACA hearing organized by the House Ways and Means health subcommittee.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the chairman of the subcommittee asked Iwry, in several different ways, whether the department and the Internal Revenue Service, believe they have the same legal authority to delay implementation of the individual health mandate that they had to implement the PPACA employer “shared responsibility” provisions.

“Do you have the authority, should you choose to use it, to delay the individual mandate?” Brady asked at one point.

“We did not reach the question of whether we have legal authority,” Iwry testified.

PPACA called for an employer mandate to take effect in 2014.

The Obama administration is giving employers with the equivalent of 100 or more full-time workers until 2015 to comply and employers with 50 to 99 full-time equivalents until 206 to comply.

Treasury officials believe that delaying the employer mandate makes sense and that delaying the individual mandate does not, Iwry said.

For an employer, knowing whether it will have to pay a penalty is difficult, and the penalty can be costly, Iwry said.

For an individual, he said, giving information about health insurance status is easy, and PPACA already phases in the penalty.

The penalty will be a maximum of just 1 percent of income this year, Iwry said.

“Individuals who can’t afford to pay that don’t have to pay it,” Iwry said.

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